Lots of people set the alarm with the best of intentions, knowing that's the time they need to get up to meet the day's demands. But then the alarm clock seems to ring way before they're ready to rise, so they're hitting snooze and, eventually, running late. Something's got to give.
The key lies inside your body. "An important factor in being able to wake up easily at the desired time in the morning is the timing of one's circadian rhythm, or 'body clock,'" says sleep researcher Leon C. Lack, PhD, professor emeritus in the school of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Much of what you need to do to wake up on time starts by planning your sleep schedule the day and the evening before — and by making your mornings count.
How do our internal clocks work, and how much can we control them? According to the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), the body’s master clock, located in the brain, produces and regulates our circadian rhythms, which help determine sleep patterns over the course of a 24 hour period. Environmental signals, such as daylight and darkness, affect circadian rhythms, too. When incoming light hits the optic nerves, information is passed along from the eyes to the brain. When there is little or no light — at night — your clock tells the brain to make more melatonin, a hormone which makes you sleepy.
Our sleep-wake cycles, hormone levels, metabolism, and body temperature are all affected by our circadian rhythms, notes the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. When your rhythm is off, you may be at risk for more than just a few groggy days you drag yourself through. Irregular rhythms, the NIGMS notes, have been linked to chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
But there are ways to recalibrate your system to get the sleep you need and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Physiological and psychological factors come into play, and it’s not always easy to get a good night’s rest or adhere to a schedule so that you consistently go to sleep and get up around the same time each day.
If you’re not a morning person, and you find yourself struggling at the start of your day, try these tips and strategies to get going.
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